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Don't Pay Student-Athletes While In School

Charles E. Sutton | 11/3/2011, 12:04 p.m.
Charles Sutton

On Sat., October 22, I had the distinct pleasure of watching a great college football game. The 6th ranked Wisconsin Badgers played the 16th ranked Michigan State Spartans. The game was played at Spartan Stadium, in East Lansing, Michigan. With temperatures in the 60s, it was considered a warm night given that it was late October in Michigan.

The stadium was filled to capacity with over 75,000 fans present. It was a critical game for both teams vying for the Big Ten Conference Title. The winner will, in all likelihood, play in the Rose Bowl, which will be held in Pasadena, California on Jan. 1, 2012.

With that in mind, I couldn't help but think of the upcoming College Football Bowl Season and the millions of dollars that then National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) will make as a result of those games, not to mention the regular season games.

The obvious question occurred to me again, which is a question that has occurred to most sports fans at some point. What percentage of this economic pie are the players receiving? The answer is zero.

That answer, quite frankly, is one aspect of college sports that has gnawed at its fan base for a very long time.

Let's face it, the NCAA has two flagship events: college football bowl games and the NCAA men's basketball tournament, more commonly known as "March Madness." In spite of the fact that NCAA schools generate enormous revenue from regular season ticket sales, concessions, parking, merchandising and more, the bowl games and March Madness by far draw the most attention.

Nearly all media outlets and even casual sports fans are drawn to these mega athletic events. Interestingly, there are only two NCAA sports that generate income -- men's basketball and football. The other sports: baseball, soccer, volleyball, track and field, and tennis, usually don't generate income. Thus, only men's basketball and football players should be up for consideration, regarding the issue of whether student-athletes should be compensated financially.

During the 2009-2010 academic years, NCAA Division 1 athletic programs generated $8.7 billion in revenue.

I propose that the NCAA set aside 15 percent of the annual income generated by Division 1 athletic programs. In this case, that's $1.3 billion. This money should be placed in an established fund, which all Division 1 men's basketball and football players can access upon graduation from college under the following conditions:

  • The former student-athlete must have played Division 1 men's basketball or football
  • The former student-athlete must have graduated with a four-year degree
  • The former student-athlete must be currently unemployed and have been for a minimum of 90 days post graduation. In this case, he will receive an annual gross income of $50,000. These funds will be received monthly, not to exceed 12 months. Once he is employed, he will no longer be eligible to access the fund. At the end of the calendar year, each funding recipient will receive an IRS Tax Form 1099
  • The former student-athlete is currently employed. However, his annual gross income is less than $50,000. In this case, the former student-athlete can access the fund, which will provide the difference between his current salary and the $50,000 threshold. The fund will provide this difference monthly for a maximum of three years.
  • If the former student-athlete is enrolled in a post-graduate program such as graduate school, he can receive up to $50,000 per year, provided that he is a full-time student and maintains a minimum grade point average of 3.0. Upon completion of the post-graduate program, if he is employed at an annual gross income of less than $60,000, the fund will provide the difference between his current salary and the $60,000 threshold. The fund will provide this difference monthly, for a maximum of three years. If he is unemployed, and has been for a minimum of 90 days after obtaining his advanced degree, he will receive an annual gross income of $60,000. These funds will be received monthly, not to exceed 12 months. Once he is employed, he will no longer be eligible to access the fund.

With NCAA student-athlete financial compensation being such a sensitive issue, everyone has an opinion. I firmly believe that what I am proposing here is fair, generous, and most importantly, it encourages our student-athletes to complete their education.

These colleges and universities that our student-athletes represent are academic institutions. These schools are offering our young people an opportunity to receive a college education for little or no cost and that makes it a special opportunity. It is an opportunity our student-athletes should focus on and take full advantage of while they can.

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